Opposition says provisions draconian; gives powers to bureaucrats powers to remove panchayat president and members
Civil society bodies in Karnataka are planning to organise a state-wide protest against the passage of the Karnataka Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2013. The Bill was passed on June 12 amid a walkout by Opposition party Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S), and a dharna staged by the main Opposition party, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Civil society under the banner of the Gram Panchayat Hakkotaya Andolan (GPHA) is now planning to set in motion the procedure to rectify the bill before it gets passed through council. “If our demands are not met, we will protest state-wide,” says Nandana Reddy, state convener of GPHA.
The contentious amendments of the Bill include the provision empowering bureaucrats to penalise and dismiss gram sabha representatives. “Regional commissioners have been entrusted with the power to remove the president and ward members if they do not convene timely meetings of the gram sabha at least once in six months. A sub-clause is provided in the Bill for disciplinary action against panchayat development officers if they fail to assist in the ward sabha meetings,” explains Reddy. “We all want timely gram sabha meetings, but the idea of penalising representatives is unfair. We are meeting the minister for rural development and panchayati raj to persuade him to amend these detrimental provisions. It will only affect Dalits and women,” he adds.
The GPHA says the government had earlier planned to devolve a 29-point demand related to finance and functionaries to empower panchayati raj institutions(PRIs).This has not yet been done. “Without giving control of resources to PRIs, it is unfair to expect performance from them. These amendments give space to manipulate PRIs as per the wishes of the government in power,” says Reddy.
Mallikaarjun Khuba, a leader of JD(S) says the Karnataka Panchayati Raj (Bill) 2013 is draconian in nature. “The Congress government didn't accommodate our party's valuable suggestions to strengthen the panchayati raj institutions; instead they stifled it by empowering bureaucrats,” says Khuba.
Sudhir Pal, editor of Jharkhand fortnightly Panchayat Observer, says the amendment was against the principle of natural justice. “Only those who choose (the representatives) should have the power to remove them,” says Pal. “The government should propose provisions to make the panchayat more accountable, rather than to kill the institutions. It affects the marginalised instead of educating them,” he adds.
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